MSJ Sport Management graduate Erica Mansaray '13 Lights the Way by turning a high school-born passion for coaching into a career in strength training.

erica mansaray

Inspired by mentors in high school, Erica envisioned herself following a path towards becoming an athletic director. This led her to the Mount's Sports Management program, which she graduated from in 2013. It was not until she met her husband that she was drawn to translate her love of coaching into working with soldiers as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. 

“I don't think people realize how much time that soldiers sacrifice on a daily/weekly/yearly basis,” Erica reflects. “Until I started dating/married my spouse, I was blind to the depth of the sacrifices these soldiers have to go through with every decision they make for the betterment of their career, family and the country they serve.”

Now, she works to Light the Way for these soldiers as they make these difficult but rewarding decisions.

A Pathway of Purpose

Erica knew she wanted to be involved in athletics and coaching from high school, where she was inspired by her school's athletic director. This led her to Mount St. Joseph University's Sport Management program, with the goal of becoming an athletic director herself one day.

After graduating from the Mount, Erica spent five years at Summit Country Day School as an athletic department administrative assistant, working closely with the Athletic Directors, staff, and teams. During this time, she was given the opportunity to act as the strength coach for the women's basketball team at the school.

For the last year Erica was at the school, she also became the strength coach for the women's soccer and volleyball teams of a rival school.

"It was in that last year when I was training at both schools that I realized where my true passion was," recalls Erica. "Being able to be the coach that I knew I needed back when I was their age gave me so much purpose."

From School Coach to Medical Brigade

Erica's passion for coaching was transformed when she met her now-husband, who was stationed at Ft. Campbell at the time and would eventually be the one to push her to pursue her career with the army. Currently, Erica works as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for the 44th Medical Brigade at Ft. Bragg. (Now Ft. Liberty), an Army unit devoted to the health and medical care of the Fort Liberty community.

"I work with the Army’s Holistic Health and Fitness performance team, also known as H2F. I work with multiple units within the Battalion as well as many soldiers on an individual basis. I develop, implement & oversee training programs to fit the specific needs of the soldiers. I also train the pregnant and postpartum soldiers!"

Erica's work with the H2F as a strength coach is one part of a large system that invests in soldier readiness, injury prevention, rehabilitation after injury, and increased effectiveness of the Army as a whole. Staffed by a variety of professionals and specialists, the teams are composed of five pillars; Physical Readiness, Mental Readiness, Sleep Readiness, Spiritual Readiness, and Nutritional Readiness.

"The training programs that we provide align with the duties that the soldiers as a company need to fulfill on a day-to-day basis, while also aligning with the Battalion/Brigade training calendar,” she says. “We also offer extra one on one programming if the soldier is interested in something outside of the scheduled PT that they have to do for the day. Some examples of that would include school prep, bodybuilding, CrossFit, Olympic lifting etc."

This same attitude of care is employed with the pregnant and postpartum soldiers under Erica's coaching. They receive coach-led group classes to keep them "strong, mobile, and as pain free as possible" throughout their pregnancy, as well as individual programs for their postpartum recovery goals.

“There is something special about being able to give back to those who serve for us,” Erica says. “Being able to assist in keeping them healthy, injury free and able to perform at their highest level for the demands of their job, is something I am grateful for every day!”

Cultivating an Army of Support

Working directly with the soldiers, Erica is often able to see the direct impact she has on their well-being. She recalls one such time, when she helped train a soldier struggling to meet her goals.

“There was a soldier who was one failed run away from being chaptered out of the army,” Erica remembers. “She worked closely with me and one of the ladies on our cognitive performance team for weeks. After multiple failed attempts and falling short of the time she needed to pass, she put her full trust in us to provide her the tools to be able to pass on her last possible attempt. We watched her commit to everything that we threw her way and fully trust the process. The day of her test, we had a pre-run chat with her, and the rest was out of our hands. My colleague and I both anxiously watched her as she took off. We were at the end of the run hoping she had enough gas for the final push to cross that finish line. She sprinted through the finish, fell to the ground and just looked at us, smiled and with the most relieved, grateful voice she said, ‘Thank you.’ Just being able to see her push through when her job was quite literally on the line and seeing the smile on her face at the end was truly an indescribable feeling.”

This story highlights just one of the many examples of Erica’s work and mission as a strength coach. Ultimately, she works so that the soldiers believe in themselves.

“They are capable of overcoming anything that they put their mind to,” Erica believes, “not only physically but mentally. We can give them the tools to succeed but ultimately, they are the ones fighting the battles and doing the work.”

Monumental Mentors

Today, Erica reflects back on her journey and the people who inspired her along the way. One of these people is the Mount’s own Mary Mazuk, who became Erica’s advisor when she transferred to the Mount in her sophomore year. She reflects on how Mary encouraged her and was a positive presence in her life. “The Mount is lucky to have a Mary Mazuk, and I am lucky to have had her in my corner.”

The second person Erica points to as her inspiration is her high school Athletic Director, Jan Wilking. At Oak Hills High School, Erica remembers admiring all that Wilking did for the teams and individual athletes of the school, and that she “handled adversity and challenges and just kept her composure in chaos and a smile on her face.” Erica eventually spent a semester in college interning with Wilking, after which Wilking helped her land her first job out of college and remained as a person Erica could turn to for advice.

“I’d say [she] is one of the best mentors I could have possible had and the reason I ultimately wanted to pursue my specific degree from Mount St. Joseph University in the first place,” Erica reflects. “I don’t know if she is even aware of her impact on me, but if she happens to see this, thank you Jan!”


Interested in Learning More about Sport Management?

The Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Management affords students the opportunity to obtain a comprehensive business education with a specialization in sport management.

Students gain valuable, real-world experience working, interning, and volunteering in a variety of sport settings, including youth, community, collegiate, professional, nonprofit, and private business. Students who graduate with a degree in sport management are also prepared to enroll in the 4+1 MBA program or complete graduate studies in sport management, law, education, or other fields of study. 

Visit our Sport Management program page here to learn more!